Sox now trying to do the little things to improve

Sox now trying to do the little things to improve
June 11, 2014, 12:15 pm
Share This Post

BALTIMORE -- In discussing the plight of Clay Buchholz on Tuesday afternoon, general manager Ben Cherington was careful to put things into perspective and manage expectations.
      
"It's likely a gradual thing, right?" said Cherington of Buchholz's attempt to fix his season. "Typically, players don't go from struggling to lights out overnight."
      
That, as much as anything, might explain the Red Sox' signing of outfielder Andres Torres to a minor league deal Wednesday morning.
      
Torres isn't the big name that many fans are seeking to boost the anemic outfield, which is performing worse than any other in the major leagues. He's not a star who will arrive at Fenway and fix all of the team's offensive issues.
      
Not by a long shot.
      
What Torres is, instead, is a small step forward, an improvement over what the Red Sox currently have and likely, a platoon partner for Jackie Bradley Jr.
      
At this point, the Red Sox will take what they can get.
      
Cherington hinted that a blockbuster wasn't around the corner when he spoke with reporters in the visitor's dugout at Camden Yards Tuesday afternoon. He noted that the second week of June is early in the trading season and making deals now requires general managers to talk their counterparts into deals.
      
"Typcically," said Cherington, "you're sort of talking other teams into doing things and that doesn't always leave you in the best position to make deals."
      
Translation: when you're desperate enough to have to make a deal in June, other teams will only help you out if they can capitalize on your desperation and make a one-sided deal.
      
Torres, like Stephen Drew before him, doesn't carry a player acquisition cost. He was out there for the taking, without a job, months into the season.
      
He played for San Francisco in 2013 -- his second stint with the Giants -- and hit .250/.302/.342.
      
But perhaps the more relevant stat line for the switch-hitting outfielder is his performance against lefties, against whom .291/.342/.376.
      
Again, those are world-beating, All-Star numbers by any stretch. But do you know how many current Red Sox outfielders have an OPS of .718? That would be exactly one (Jonny Gomes) if one doesn't count newbie Brock Holt, who's now played three games in left field.
      
In the short-term, the signing of Torres suggests that Grady Sizemore is on the clock. Despite occasional flashes at the plate, Sizemore still hasn't hit well enough to warrant lots of playing time. Sizemore is at .220/.291/.328 -- numbers that don't cut it.
      
On a better team, Sizemore might be a serviceable fifth outfielder, able to occasionally spell the center fielder. But it became evident rather early this season that Sizemore was no longer even an adequate defender in center, and was barely passable in left.
      
Sizemore's inability to play an adequate center field has forced the Sox into sticking with Bradley more than they would have otherwise preferred. With no other viable alternative on the roster, the Sox have decided to stay with Bradley, feeling that, if nothing else, they'll get elite defensive play in the middle of their outfield.
      
What's made Bradley's offensive struggles tougher to accept is that it hasn't been off-set from the corner outfielders. Until Holt moved to left on Sunday night, the Sox were getting virtually nothing from either left or right field as John Farrell attempted to mix-and-match some combination of Daniel Nava, Gomes, Sizemore, and when he was healthy, Mike Carp.
      
As soon as Torres gets game-ready at Pawtucket, he could give the Sox another option in center against lefties, thereby allowing the Sox to not over-expose Bradley.
      
That doesn't solve the issues of sub-par production in left and right, but for now, the Sox could go with Holt in left, a platoon of Bradley and Torres in center and a mixture of Gomes and Nava in right.
      
Will that group make anyone forget Rice-Lynn-Evans? Of course not. But even if it's a small improvement, it's an upgrade -- however measured -- over what they have now.